It’s the middle of November. You’ve just completed your October mid-terms, the December SAT is three weeks away, and exams are at least a month away. This is when many students make the mistake of thinking, “Hey, I have plenty of time to study, so why start now?” While it is true, you do have plenty of time to study; it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start studying now. The number one thing you can do is MAKE A PLAN!
There’s a saying that “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” I would change this to reflect the high school student’s situation as “If you fail to plan, then you plan to wing it, hope for the best, and provide excuses when some or all of your finals go south.” Many students cram, and while cramming for one test might be feasible, cramming for multiple exams means some exams will get more attention than others even though they may all require several hours of studying. Also, cramming for reasoning-based tests, like the SAT, doesn’t work. Today I will give you some good reasons why you want to make a plan, and in my next blog post, I will give you some specific things you can do right now to plan for finals and the SAT.
Your brain is not a data dump. Cramming involves loosely storing a bunch of facts in your short-term memory. The problem with this is that your short-term memory has a limited capacity. Most teenager’s long-term memory, on the other hand, can store three months of facts from five different subjects without a problem. For the computer nerd types, think of it like the difference between your hard drive and your RAM.You can only have so much in your RAM at one time, and you can only walk into a test with so much committed to your short-term memory, so why not plan ahead and walk into the test knowing you can ace it not hoping you can ace it?
Cramming can give you test anxiety. If you struggle with test anxiety, cramming just makes it worse. Anxiety is a physical reaction to a something that you cannot control. When you cram, you are not in control. You don’t know if you can study everything you need to study, and even if you do read through the material, you don’t know what you know. Reading through the material without having time to test yourself can make an already tense situation even worse.
Cramming is a gamble. You are gambling that tomorrow will be pretty similar to today and next week will be similar to this week. You are assuming that you have some semblance of how much time you will have to study during exam week. Unfortunately, the world does not stop on its axis while you get your through your exams. Life happens. Emergencies happen. You may have to pick up an extra shift at work because someone is sick. You might be the one that’s sick. (Hey, it’s flu season.) Twice, now, I have had someone hit my car while it was parked in a parking spot. I had to file a claim, and take the car into the shop, which meant I had to rely on other people to go anywhere. These situations put a kink in your cram plans, but if you have already studied most of the material, then even if something comes up, all is not lost.